The National Basketball Players Association filed a complaint today against the NBA with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging the league has “consistently engaged in unfair labor practices” during the current collective bargaining negotiations. It could result in an injunction preventing the owners from locking out the players when the collective bargaining agreement ends June 30.
In its filling with the NLRB, the players’ union charged the league with failing to bargain in good faith, demanding financial givebacks from existing contracts, bypassing the union to deal directly with the players and threatening a lockout
The league responded in a statement: “There is no merit to the charge filed today by the Players Association with the National Labor Relations Board, as we have complied — and will continue to comply — with all of our obligations under the federal labor laws. It will not distract us from our efforts to negotiate in good faith a new collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association.”
The league, in its most recent proposal for a new CBA, would like to impose a hard salary cap and a 40-percent rollback on contracts over the next three seasons, according to recent news reports. The players have not offered a counter-proposal. At present, players earn about 60 percent of all revenues in the NBA. The owners would like the ratio to reversed, with players receiving 40 percent.
Making it through the season without a major knee injury should be grounds for a celebration in Lakersland. He’s had enough injury problems to last a career, and he’s only 23. Don’t imagine for a minute that the Lakers will give him up in a trade, even one for Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. His forearm shiver to the chest of Dallas’ J.J. Barea, his ejection, his five-game suspension for the flagrant foul and his $25,000 fine for yanking off his jersey and stalking off the court notwithstanding, 2010-11 was a step forward for the 7-footer. Getting stronger, increasing his rebounding and blocked shot totals and playing 82 games should be his goals for next season. There’s no reason he can’t do it. He sat out the season’s first 24 games after having knee surgery last summer, but he goes into this summer healthy, with no surgeries or rehab needed.
Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls was fined $50,000 today for yelling an anti-gay slur at a fan during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday in Miami. It was the same two-word phrase used by the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant last month, when he was fined $100,000 for yelling it at referee Bennie Adams during a game against the San Antonio Spurs. Why the difference for the same ugly words? The NBA explained that Bryant’s slur was directed toward a referee and Noah’s was hurled at a fan. So, is the league saying that referees are worth twice as much as fans? I would say the opposite is true. Maybe the league should have said the salaries of the players (Bryant: $24 million; Noah: $3 million) were taken into account. That would probably be the wiser play from a public-relations standpoint. There’s no need to disrespect the fans, the people who pay everyone’s salaries.
At the end of the season, no one looked more worn out and in need of a vacation in the warm sun than the Lakers’ best player. He wobbled down the stretch and into the playoffs on tired legs and it showed as the Lakers were bounced from the postseason in a four-game sweep at the hands of the older but less fatigued Dallas Mavericks in the second round. The Lakers’ run of three straight trips to the Finals ended at just the right time, as far as Kobe-watchers should be concerned. A long summer could be just what Bryant needs to regain his fitness after he played an average of 99 games (regular season plus playoffs) over the last four seasons. The figure rises if you add his Team USA commitments in 2007 and ’08 plus exhibition games.
He started the season as if he was going to be the impact player they hoped he could be off the bench. He made perimeter shots and forced teams to take not of him along the 3-point arc, but then he tailed off after Christmas and couldn’t seem to buy a basket at times. He also struggled to keep opposing guards in front of him at the defensive end, which made him even less useful on an inconsistent second unit. His scoring average of 8.7 points was a career best, something of a consolation prize.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar should be immortalized in the form of a statue in front of Staples Center, there’s no doubt about it. But his media blitz over the course of the last two days is absolutely the wrong way to go about getting it done. Magic Johnson, Jerry West and Chick Hearn made it ahead of him, and he should wait his turn. The Lakers have told him he will be next, but his tone-deaf campaign is the exact reason the others (plus hockey great Wayne Gretzky and boxer Oscar de la Hoya) have gone before him.
Great as he was, Abdul-Jabbar never got it as a player. He gave new meaning to the word “aloof” during his 20 seasons in the NBA. He was always described as “shy” or “introverted” as a player, first with the Milwaukee Bucks and then with the Lakers, but that’s being charitable. “Unpleasant” was another word for him.
Then, after he retired, he complained publicly about not getting a coaching gig in the NBA. The New York Knicks made him a scout and the Clippers hired him as an assistant to help tutor their big men. He didn’t last long in either job. The Lakers then hired him to mentor young center Andrew Bynum, but that association ran its course, too.
Now this, an undignified complaint that the Lakers have somehow disrespected him by not having him set in bronze or gold or Play-doh or whatever in front of a downtown building that’s overrun by skateboarders when there are no games being played. You have to wonder if these are his true feelings or whether he’s been coached into saying these things by some half-wit publicist or business manager.
His signing last summer looked a lot better on paper than it did on the court in 2010-11. He was the ultimate pass-first guard, which wasn’t a bad thing on a team with an abundance of shoot-first players. The Lakers hoped for more production with the ball in his hands, however. His 35.9 percent shooting was his lowest mark since he shot 32.8 percent in 2004-05, his second season in the league. They want more from him.
Sometimes he seemed comfortable in the triangle offense and other times it seemed foreign to him. All things considered, it was a season of adjustment for a player who was playing for his fourth new team in as many seasons. The Lakers liked his aggressiveness defensively, but just when it seemed he was making an impact at both ends of the court, he tore cartilage in his right knee and missed 26 games after undergoing surgery. The way back was long and filled with missteps, but there’s hope for the future.
Sometime around the middle of the season, he began to grasp the concepts of the Lakers’ triangle offense and actually looked comfortable. His adjustment to the role of a supporting cast member remains a work in progress, however. The Lakers needed him to play lock-down defense more than anything, though, and he delivered. The next steps he takes could depend a great deal on the selection of the Lakers’ next coach. He played exceptionally well for Rick Adelman in Houston, for instance. He didn’t seem to mesh well with Phil Jackson, whose barbs got under his skin. The best might still be ahead of him, as far as adapting to his role and playing it with greater efficiency.
Kobe Bryant and Stephen Jackson were both born in 1978. Bryant began playing professionally for the Lakers in 1996-97 and Jackson the following season in the CBA. Bryant has played 21,186 minutes or seven 82-game seasons (averaging 40 minutes per game) more than Jackson if you add up all the playoff games, according to research done by Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News. That helps to explain why Bryant looked slow and old during the Lakers’ second-round playoff ouster at the hands of Dallas.
Here’s Bryant’s workload in the last four seasons:
He played in all 92 games this season (including 10 in the playoffs).
He played all but nine of 105 games last season (missing nine regular season games).
He played in all 105 games in 2008-09.
He also played in all 103 games in 2007-08.
That’s not counting the Olympics in 2008 or All-Star games in each season or exhibition games.